Howland hopeful for Muhammad's return
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA Bruins will leave campus Tuesday night for an early Wednesday morning flight heading to China for an exhibition tour.
Not making the trip is the jewel of the Ben Howland's latest recruiting class, Shabazz Muhammad. The freshman is ineligible to make the trip as the NCAA looks into potential improper benefits he may have received as a recruit.
According to Ben Howland, NCAA rules state there's a 45-day window that Muhammad is allowed to practice with the team while the NCAA investigates. The Bruins were allotted 10 practices this summer to prepare for the trip. Muhammad has not participated in any of those. He has participated with the team in two individual skill workouts, which Howland says doesn't count towards practice.
Muhammad is scheduled to practice with the team once school begins on Sept. 27. That is when his 45-day window will begin if the situation has yet to be resolved by the NCAA. Howland says he is "hopeful" it will be resolved soon.
"We continue to be cooperative and patient, as is Shabazz and his family," Howland said on Monday.
While the team is in China, Muhammad will continue with summer school classes at UCLA and rehab a high ankle sprain that kept him out for about a month. He returned to the court last week for one of the team's skill workouts.
Howland says the school has not been given a timetable for how long the investigation will continue. When asked if he thought Muhammad would be cleared in time to begin the season on Nov. 9, the coach responded, "that's to be speculative."
Muhammad is one-fourth of what is believed to be the top recruiting class in the country along with Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker. Of the four, two won't play in China. Parker will make the trip but has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since July 31.
"I don't expect Tony to play," Howland said. "I don't want to go over there and having had him not practice and all of a sudden throw him in a game where the intensity level is even higher and then re-injure it."
The Bruins will return from their seven-day tour on Aug. 29.